Announcing Farm 2.0 – A sustainable food hackerspace

OFN break upFarm 2.0 is a new project that explores how internet and communication technologies can be used in Canada’s sustainable food movement to optimize traditional agricultural practices, enable effective networks and facilitate policy change.

Smaller scaled organic and ecological producers are trying to build community around their farms and squeeze out a living in a landscape where farms keep getting bigger, products are more distant, retail is more consolidated and marketing is laden with ‘green washing’. These producers are being supported by ethically-minded consumers, academics and policy-makers. A diverse ecosystem of sustainable food hubs and networks, oriented toward building food systems that are more local, fair and green is coalescing in Canada.

To date, Internet and communication technologies have not figured prominently in forging food system solutions, and the intersection of technology and sustainable food is an under-developed area. One reason for this is that ecological and organic producers have historically favoured low technological, traditional, hands-on and artisanal practices.  But Theresa Schumilas, who recently joined the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems as a Research Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow,  thinks that these  ‘low tech’ and ‘high tech’ worlds have much in common. An organic farmer herself,  Schumilas wonders if there are ways emerging technologies might open up new spaces for us to imagine and realize radically different practices and make shifts to more sustainable food systems.

Theresa is friend-raising and fund-raising to establish a sustainable food and technology ‘hackerspace’ or ‘lab’ that enables connections and collaboration between Canada’s emerging food hubs/networks and designers, programmers and technologists. She calls the project  ‘Farm 2.0’ to signal an extension of ‘Web 2.0’, which generally refers to how the world wide web has transitioned from being a collection of individual web sites with static information, to the web as a network of interactive computer platforms and applications. Farm 2.0 and Web 2.0 alike signal ethics such as democratization, empowerment, citizenship, sovereignty and protection of both the cyber and terrestrial commons.

In the last few years there has been an explosion of primarily proprietary software packages and web-based applications that are designed to help smaller scaled farmers with marketing.  Theresa has been interviewing ecological farmers about their use of these various programs and notes that their experiences are mixed.  “On one hand, farmers appreciate having help with sales logistics like inventory management and invoicing,  but at the same time,  they are looking for something more. This first generation of on-line marketplaces doesn’t seem to reflect the value placed on the commons that motivates many ecological farmers.”  When you think about it,  what has been happening in sustainable food software,  mirrors what has been happening in the seed industry. Technological ‘solutions’ have mined the knowledge built in the sustainable food movement over the past 30 years,  encoded that experience into a variety of internet-based applications, and sold it back to the farmers and food hubs who originated it. While the sustainable food movement has been focusing on seed sovereignty and building the ecological commons, its cyber commons is being privatized.

The foundation for a Farm 2.0 hackerspace that ‘saves code’ just like seeds,  already exists. Two years ago, in Australia, The Open Food Foundation (OFF) established itself  as a registered charity in order to develop, accumulate and protect open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms for fair and sustainable food systems. The Foundation focuses on bringing together farmers, food hubs and developers in a global network that facilitates open-source, non-proprietary technological innovation toward building more sustainable food systems. Their first project was the development and global launch of a technology platform called Open Food Network (OFN), that offers a way for sustainable food hubs, networks, producers and related food enterprises to link and build connections across local, regional, provincial, national and global scales. One of Theresa’s projects is to put this platform to the service of Canada’s growing sustainable food movement.

Open Food Network (OFN) is a non-proprietary, open-source, online platform. Using a set of intuitive and flexible tools, this multi-purpose software serves as a directory, communication hub and logistics platform that enables relationships among farmers, consumers, food hubs and other food enterprises. On one hand, it is an on-line marketplace. At local scales, it helps eaters find, buy, and learn about sustainable food, and helps producers and food hubs with supply chain logistics. However, the platform is more than a set of marketing tools and differs from other proprietary e-commerce platforms in important ways. OFN is a space that helps isolated sustainable food projects link, learn, and build peer-to-peer networks across scales in order to grow and strengthen a global resilient food movement. Under the oversight of the global foundation (Open Food Network), a community of coders, developers, producers, food hubs and others work to continually improve the platform and proliferate its use using charitable funding as well as reinvestment of revenues.

Since the launch of OFN two years ago, food communities around the world have been licensed and mentored by OFF to use this platform. There are now 25 networks using the platform in Australia, 20 in the UK, 2 in Norway, and teams are currently launching in South Africa, France, the US and (with this project) Canada.

theresa in front of canningTheresa will be updating the Nourishing Communities site regularly, but if you want to be involved in her research,  or if you have some ideas to share,  please email her.

TTIP – Increased Trade for Better Living?

European policy conference bringing together Civil Society organisations, negotiators and decision makers

Date: 15-16 June 2015
Place: Brussels

The planned free trade agreements between the EU and the US and Canada, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), have stirred heated debates among civil society organisations, which question whether these agreements can achieve their stated aims whilst protecting health. TTIP supporters and negotiators continue to reassure civil society that TTIP would not affect the member states’ sovereign right to regulate and would not lower European public health, agricultural or food safety standards. However, there are legitimate concerns about risks for standard setting and maintenance in the fields of sustainable food, agriculture, health systems, safe labour and animal welfare. Mistrust prevails towards the final outcome of the agreements, since negotiations have taken place behind closed doors and only with civil society pressure have small positive steps towards more transparency been made. Proposed instruments such as regulatory cooperation or the Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) threaten to undermine the right to regulate and the democratic development of legislation.

For conference details and to register

For the draft agenda

Fortnightly Feast vol. 23

Ontario’s Regional Co-op Food Hub Project

The Regional Food Hub Expansion project provides capacity building, business planning, regional local food forums and collaboration among four regional food hubs and associated network partners and stakeholders. The four food hubs are in various stages of development by existing local food co-ops. Funding from the Local Food Fund, Carrot Cache, The Co-operators, LOFC and ONFC is providing the financial support to develop and expand the regional food hubs. Read more

 

Talkin’ Local Food with UHN

University Health Network now has 85 ideas on their crowdsourcing project to better connect local Ontario food to the hospitals at University Health Network.
You can vote for any and all of the challenges for the next month, and until September 7, you can even add more ideas!

 

Individual diet changes can’t fix the global food system

Jennifer Clapp and Caitlin Scott on the excellent Guardian Food Hub blog

Up to this point, we’ve been fed simple messages about the scope of the problem, and we’ve been given specific advice about how we can address it individually. Simplicity and a sense of our own agency are important in communicating messages that can contribute to broader change. But, we must be wary of reducing complex problems into overly-simplified sound bites that gloss over serious aspects of the problem and place too much responsibility on those with the least leverage. Read more

 

… and for those wondering how an entire country gets ahead of the curve:

Ireland: Working with Nature through Origin Green

Ireland has always been known for its natural high quality food, drink and ingredients. Through a world first program called Origin Green, we’re aiming for Ireland to be a world leader in sustainability. See the infographic

 

What I’ve Learned about Food and Sustainability

Jason Clay at World Wildlife Magazine

…we came up with a list of 35 priority places around the world and analyzed the threats to the biodiversity in those locations. What we learned was eye-opening: the greatest pressure on those places, by far, was coming from the production of food and fiber. … 15 globally traded commodities present the most significant threats across the board to the world’s most ecologically important places.

Our research showed that 300 to 500 companies buy 70-80% of each of those 15 commodities. And 100 companies touch about 25% of that group.

Best of all, that level of influence means producers will compete to sell to those 100 companies. So we can actually impact 40-50% of global production by working with a carefully selected group. That is a strategy that changes the game. Read more

Fortnightly Feast – vol. 16

Cardiff chosen as beacon of sustainable food

Cardiff has been selected as one of just six cities in the UK to share in one million pounds of funding to be invested in improving food culture and support its efforts to become a Sustainable Food City. Read more

Sustainable Food European Style

For the first time, the European Commission is working towards a Communication on Sustainable Food. An important milestone in the move towards a more resource-efficient food system; Slow Food is actively encouraging the initiative, as well as the efforts of the Commission to open up the debate on this topic. Read more

Hunger, income and the local food economy…

Foodlink Grey Bruce, Dec 10 2013

In the spirit of solving the terrible problem of hunger in our communities it’s vital to explore underlying issues. When we see headlines like: Food costs eating up limited incomes about the annual Ontario Nutritious Food Basket survey that measures regional costs of basic healthy food, the real issues can get obscured. One could also say that “rent costs are eating up incomes” or any number of other causes; see Open meeting this Friday to discuss poverty … It’s a good opportunity to say a few important things that relate to local food. Read more

Island Chefs’ Collaborative

Many budding entrepreneurs start off by making their products in their kitchens at home, but depending on the type of product it is, they might have to make it in an inspected commercial kitchen facility, or quite often to take the next step up, they have to purchase equipment they just don’t have the capital for. This is where the Island Chefs Collaborative has stepped in… with a commercial microloan system. Read more

New Report on Growers Cooperative

The Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana is pleased to announce that a new report is available titled “Local is Delicious” But It’s Not Always Easy:  A Case Study of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative.

The research presented not only answers questions of interest to the Cooperative and its partners, but also contributes to a general understanding of small-scale cooperatives operating as food hubs, values-based supply chains, and the possibilities and challenges associated with building a more democratic, regional food system in a large rural area.

To access the report, go to:  http://www.lakecountycdc.org/_Resources_%26_Case_Studies

 

The logistics of going local

“If you’ve seen one food hub, you’ve seen one food hub.”
– Rich Pirog

It took 18 months and $650,000 to turn the Kalamazoo Street warehouse into a food hub, with the help of dozens of business and artisans who discounted their services or worked for free. Along the way, two layers of ugly ceiling tile were torn away to reveal a pleasant surprise: the graceful arched ceiling of the building’s first tenant, Kircher Grocery Store. Read more

Fortnightly Feast – vol. 15

It has been a busy two weeks in sustainable food systems news! Here’s a round-up of recent conference and webcast announcements, as well as some interesting reports and articles.

2013 Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference

OMAF/MRA:  The Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference is back for another year and it’s better than ever. This year’s theme is “Innovation Driving Local Food”. The conference will take place on December 2 – 3, 2013 at the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre in Kingston. It is hosted by Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Rural Affairs. Read more

How to Feed 9 Billion on a Small Planet

USC Canada:  On November 19th, Miguel Altieri (University of California, Berkeley) – a world leading authority on agroecology – will speak on ecological agriculture as a key solution to food insecurity, hunger, and climate change. He’ll be joined by panelists:

Jean-Martin Fortier, farmer and author of The Market Gardener,
Sarah Archibald, Campus Food Systems Project Coordinator, and
Henry Lickers, Environmental Science Officer, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.
Bob Carty, former top CBC radio journalist, will moderate the webcast.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 from 12-2 pm EST
Across Canada via webcast

REGISTER
To register for the webcast or to organize a private or public screening, go to: usc-canada.org/feedingtheworld.

For more information, please contact genevieve@usc-canada.org.

This event is organized by USC Canada, Inter Pares, Food Secure Canada, School of International Development and Global Studies, Sierra Youth Coalition, Meal Exchange, ETC Group, CBAN, Ram’s Horn,National Farmers Union, and Development and Peace.

Farming in Ontario’s Greenbelt: Possibility Grows Here

Greenbelt:  Co-authoured by professor Wayne Caldwell, of the University of Guelph, and recognized expert on agricultural and rural planning issues, Farming in Ontario’s Greenbelt: Possibility Grows Here, provides recommendations to ensure economic prosperity and viability of farming in Ontario.
Read more

Urban Food Strategies: the rough guide to sustainable food systems

FoodLinks:  Academics, policy makers and CSOs from 9 different European countries have collaboratively produced a guide to provide motivation and support for those actors interested in building more sustainable food systems in urban contexts. Far from proposing a recipe to develop Urban Food Strategies, we have compiled distinct motivations, measures, ideas, processes and examples from around Europe that we hope are useful to inspire action towards more sustainable and just food systems for all. Read more

Civic Engagement in Food System Governance

A Comparative Perspective on American and English Local Food Movements
Alan Hunt

Using longitudinal empirical evidence, Hunt finds that local food projects in the US are more collaborative than those in England. His research demonstrates that increasing inclusion in civil society can increase policy outcomes despite countervailing trends of social segregation and political polarization. Read more

Farmland Conservation

Wallace Center:  The National Young Farmers Coalition recently released a report, Farmland Conservation 2.0: How Land Trusts Can Protect America’s Working Farms (pdf), discussing the successful strategies of farmland conservation to secure permanent and affordable land for working farmers. Read more

WHO: Ensuring a safe, healthy and sustainable food supply

Policies in agriculture and fisheries influence public health by affecting the supply, local availability, safety, affordability and accessibility of foods. Read more

Food Is the New Black

Huffington Post:  “Food is the New Black” — I read that in a fashion or home or travel magazine a few months ago. The next 30 seconds of thoughts and emotions that flooded my mind are probably typical for people in my field. First I smiled at the silliness of that statement. Then, I felt confidence: People do seem to be catching on that healthful, bountiful food is at risk. Read more

Sustainable food systems include food from forests

Biodiversity International:  Globally, it is estimated that billions of people depend on forests and trees. This is true for many people living in developing countries, for whom forests are an essential part of a sustainable food system. Read more

The No Nonsense Guide to World Food – Wayne Roberts

No-nonsense GuideIt’s not a worm’s eye view of the food world, but then it’s not a bird’s eye view either. The brand new and totally rewritten edition of the No Nonsense Guide to World Food is written by Wayne Roberts, longtime manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council, who sees the world from between the blades of a grassroots movement, mainly in Ontario, where he’s lived most of his life. Friendly and down-to-earth.

The book is designed as an intro, which means it’s easy to read rather than technical,  and fairly short rather than fairly long. Each of the six chapters asks and answers a different question, so a moment’s glance shows that you’ll get up-to-date info on the meaning of food system, industrial agriculture, junk food, hunger, food security, food sovereignty, industrial agriculture, and sustainable food strategy.  It has the earmarks of having been designed with a university intro course on food in mind.
For copies or more info on The No Nonsense Guide to World Food, go to the website of Between the Lines.

Fortnightly Feast – vol. 7

Community Engagement: Pedagogy, Partnership, Practices
26th Annual Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference
Jointly sponsored by the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences and the Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Keynote Speaker
Dr. Connie Nelson, Lakehead University
“Service Learning and Democratizing Knowledge”

In the past month we’ve seen a huge revival in the use of the term ‘sustainable’ in the foodosphere (that’s the ‘blogosphere’ as it relates to food) – as I tried to capture in the last Feast (vol. 6.2). Whether talking about farm insurance, food marketing, food systems, food justice, food hubs, food regulation, the future of farming, or the future of food, it’s gotta be ‘sustainable’ (again). Here is a small (but important) sample:

http://fox6now.com/2013/04/27/urban-farming-expert-promotes-sustainable-food-systems/

http://learn.uvm.edu/sustainability/food-summit/breakthrough-leaders-program/

http://www.farms.com/BASFconverstionsonsustainability/tabid/1247/Default.aspx

The Small-Minded, Small Farm Conundrum
Our ideas are not small in any way, but we end up time and time again arguing our case primarily on the basis of size.   … But size alone seems not to be the primary driver of risk.  Rather, such factors as time, distance and system complexity are the most immediate keys to controlling risk, and that would make local and regional food systems a critical part of any effective national food safety strategy. Read more

Local and Regional Food System Marketing Program Opens Up New Round of FundingThe USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has announced a request for applications for its latest round of funding for the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP).  Two previous priority categories remain for the 2013 round of grants:

  • Creating wealth in rural communities through the development of local and regional food systems and value-added agriculture; and
  • Developing direct marketing opportunities for producers, or producer groups.

Read more

Greenbelt Fund Green Papers – Volume 6 – People: Attitudes and Beliefs
When making changes to the food purchasing process, the challenge public institutions face is that they tend to involve a long list of staff members that play a role in this process… Any one person on this long line of those directly and indirectly affected can stymie institutional change. It is therefore of utmost importance that relevant staff is engaged when initiating change. Read more

Locavesting is a call to rethink the way we invest, so that we support the small businesses that create jobs and healthy, resilient communities. Read more

… and finally, regular Feast readers will have been struck by the number of articles on the investment in infrastructure happening at a a state level in both Michigan and New York. Here’s more:

What is a food hub? Part 3: Michigan Hubs

The Michigan Food Hub Learning and Innovation Network facilitates:

  • increased learning, innovation, and profitability for participating food hubs
  • increased access to food hub financial and technical assistance, research, and education
  • increased business-to-business collaboration across food hubs.

Read More

State approves $2.5 million for Madison County ‘food hub’
The grants from Empire State Development Corp. will help Growing Upstate Food Hub LLC, a consortium of farm businesses, build the $4.2 million shared-use facility in Canastota. Read more

New Report Release from Nourishing Ontario

Research report shows how sustainable food systems strengthen the health of local communities

WATERLOO – A new report by Ontario researchers documents how farmers’ markets, co-ops and other sustainable food systems strengthen the economic, environmental and social health of local communities.

After extensive consultation with the Ontario food community, the report — called Models and Best Practices for Building Sustainable Food Systems in Ontario and Beyond — will be made available to the public today through the Nourishing Ontario website: http://nourishingontario.ca/models-and-best-practices/

Read more from the press release

Engaging with local food communities

… from The Cord

Going local on food systems

Laurier professor urges students and locals to engage in their local food communities rather than getting food from abroad

James Shin  Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Behind the plates that get served at our tables every day, there are intricate infrastructures and economies that control how and where food is produced, processed and distributed. According to Alison Blay-Palmer, an associate professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, this current food system may not be the most favourable for our local communities. Read more

Fortnightly Feast Vol. 4

Notice Board

The call for abstracts for the 5th AESOP Conference on Sustainable Food Planning is now open. The conference will focus on innovations in urban food systems, with specific sessions on flows, land and governance.
Abstract submission deadline is June 15, 2013.

Social Innovation Pop-Up Lab, March 21, 2013 – Brantford
Finance, Farms and Food – Exploring new ways to organize and raise money for sustainable food system projects. If you are interested in some new ideas and can travel to Brant County on March 21, we encourage you to participate in this learning event. Come out to hear from a variety of organizations on how they are using new tools and approaches to raise money for sustainable food projects. Details.

Petition to Support local food & good jobs in Ontario
The Premier of Ontario has committed to re-introducing a stronger Local Food Act to support our local farmers and eaters.  We think the government can do more to create jobs in Ontario like they’ve done with sustainable energy, by supporting the fast-growing local sustainable food sector, while making the province a more awesome place.  Please sign if you agree and want more diverse local food!

draft Ontario Local Food Act, from the Canadian Environmental Law Association, with funding from the Metcalf Foundation, and building on work done by Sustain Ontario and it’s members.

Greenbelt Fund Green Papers: Volume 5
Access: Aggregating Ontario Product
Historically, farmers in Ontario have delivered their produce directly to local grocery retailers, restaurants, and institutions. This practice has largely disappeared for two reasons. First, distributors emerged as a one-stop shop for restaurants and institutions to obtain product, eliminating the need for multiple suppliers. Second, as franchises and corporate foodservice companies became more dominant, fixed contracts with select distributors to supply categories of products have become the norm. Read more

New  2nd edition of the Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management [pdf]
Brian Caldwell, Dr. Eric Sideman, Abby Seaman, Emily Brown Rosen, Dr. Tony Shelton, and Dr. Christine Smart

Upcoming WEBINARS

Partners from the Intervale Center, the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) and the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (New Entry) will discuss farmland matching programs, helping farmers access capital, and the structure and challenges of continued support for graduates.

Title: NIFTI Webinar 6 – Transitioning Farmers Off the Incubator Site
Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Time: 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM EDT

Food policy councils are becoming an effective way to foster healthy food environments in communities across the country.  Join us for an in-depth examination of the successful Los Angeles Food Policy Council.

Title: Food Policy Councils: Improving Healthy Food Retail in a City
Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT

Limited retail access to healthy foods affects the dietary patterns and health outcomes of many Americans.  Join us to learn how new research and evaluation practices are helping to generate innovative solutions that stimulate change in local communities.

Title: Food Access & Health Impacts: Trends and New Research
Date: Thursday, April 4, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT

New to us

Australian Food Hubs Network – understandizng, promoting, experimenting with introduction of Food Hubs to Australia
The AFHN is a collaboration of individuals from diverse backgrounds, who are bound by … the vision of fair, sustainable and resilient food systems for all Australians.
We recognise the severity of the many social, ecological and economic challenges our food systems face, locally, nationally and globally. We are convinced of the urgent need for transformative changes in these systems. Read more

Shocking

Could a simple green calorie label make people see nutrition-poor foods as healthier?